Driving to Santa Cruz from Los Gatos, you’ll pass signs for Redwood Estates just before the summit. The origins of this subdivision go back to the 1920s when it was pushed hard as an easy-to-get-to mountain retreat for San Franciscans who were just purchasing automobiles and wanted a country getaway. After a rather leisurely drive from the city, you could be among the redwoods, with clean mountain air and fresh free-flowing mountain spring water. Why, you might just feel like a kid again. At least that’s what the promoters hoped when they enlisted Gail Lloyd, a movie star of that time, to exclaim how desirable it would be to buy property there:
And this air! There’s nothing like it anywhere in the world! And the crystal-clear spring water, so cool and sparkling! And—just think!—it’s supplied, abundantly and freely, to every cabin! Why, just to be here makes a person feel like a happy, frisky child of ten! This is the place to come for vacation. This is the place to live!
Redwood Estates Then
This 1927 promotional video for Redwood Estates, put on YouTube by the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County, takes you back to that time:
Lots in the development ranged from $100 to $1,000, and the Redwood Estate company offered cabin plans for quick and easy building. There was a large community center with a pool, free water, ready electrical hook-up, and, if you owned a car, passable roads.
Apparently, many visitors stopped at the Dutch windmill, built strategically just in front of the sales office, and then become land owners in the Redwood estates development. Before the windmill was built in 1927, they used a large wooden bear to attract attention.
Redwood Estates Now
Evidence of the original subdivision is subtle. Today, the housing is certainly no bargain and is primarily permanent, not vacation homes. Although the US Census Bureau classifies the area as part of Lexington Hills, the name of the local post office is still Redwood Estates. Given the power of the post to define and shape towns throughout US history, I am gonna bet that Redwood Estates will be the name that endures.
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- Redwood Estates, California. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Accessed June 22, 2016.
- Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz, by Richard A. Beal. The Pacific Group, 1991.